The Endemic Plants of Chile

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Semiarid Andean cordillera

The semiarid foothills and high elevation slopes of the Andes support a vegetation composed mainly of small shrubs, herbaceous perennials, and annuals. The tree flora is very sparse and only exists at the lower elevations along watercourses however, Geoffroea decorticans, Schinus areira and some species of Prosopis, especially P. alba and P. chilensis, can occur up to 2500 m in altitude where again they are confined to the margins of river systems. Sclerophyllous shrubs including species of Colliguaya and Kageneckia can also be found at these higher altitudes, but spiny shrubs also abound; prominent amongst these are the cacti Eulychnia acida, E. iquiquensis and Leucostele chiloensis. At higher elevations, typically towards the south, where the temperatures are lower and residual summer humidity predominates, there is an increase in rainfall which supports pasturelands. These areas are known as ‘veranadas’ where domestic animals are grazed during the summer months. The Andean rivers and small lakes are permanently fed by snow- and glacier-melt. The valleys have a rich diversity of low woody plants and herbaceous perennial species and the high Andean slopes support a rich alpine flora. Here, the number of Chilean endemic plants species is relatively low as the flora is shared with neighbouring Argentina.

Endemic Taxa in Semiarid Andean cordillera